Mr. Speaker, in recognition of national co-op week from October 13 to 19 and on behalf of the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, minister responsible for co-operatives, I wish to pay tribute to all Canadian who have left us the legacy of a strong co-operative sector and to all those men and women who continue to build on that foundation.
The co-operative is a unique form of business where the best of people and capital meet to address community needs in a democratic fashion.
As community based and democratically controlled organizations whose savings benefit and remain in their local neighbourhoods, co-operatives have contributed to the development of a strong Canadian economy for more than a century.
Co-operatives and credit unions are well recognized for combining economic and social objectives supported by strong corporate citizen behaviour. They offer a proven development model that can assist in our efforts to revitalize rural Canada.
While co-operatives have been historically strong in the agri-food sector, I believe they can play an equally important role in the broader rural economy.
The government has made rural economic renewal a priority. We are committed to forging a renewed partnership with co-operatives to assist them in this effort.
The co-operative sector makes a tremendous contribution to Canada's fabric, from building a strong sense of solidarity within a community to becoming a leader for the processing and marketing of many commodities; from breaking ground in financial technology to maintaining a strong base of enthusiastic volunteers.
All together, co-operatives, caisses populaires and credit unions have a membership of approximately 12 million Canadians, provide jobs for 133,000 people, and represent assets of $143 billion. Over the course of the year, a number of co-operative success stories were collected to demonstrate what can be achieved when concerned and affected people control the identification of priorities, the design of the business plan and the implementation process of a project or program.
The Government of Canada has committed to modernizing its co-operative legislation. The national co-operative associations spent a number of years defining their legislative requirements. A countrywide consultation process on their proposals is currently underway. The Minister of Industry and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will be looking to the House to support the adoption of a new Co-operatives Act before the end of this parliamentary session. Our co-operatives deserve the best legislative environment to address the new global economy and their need for expanded sources of capital.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the millions of Canadians who have made the co-operative sector a vital and growing part of the Canadian economy.